Native American Culture and Art
March 1 - May 31, 2007
Fineline Seed Jar
Photo:: Yvonne Stokes
As long as can be remembered, Native Americans have provided European newcomers to North America with culture-laden rituals and legends. Native Americans relied on the land for food, shelter, clothing, and tools. Each nation identified itself through a specific language, dress, lodging style, adornments, tools, weapons, and philosophy. Through individual or group ceremonies and dances, prayers and incantations beseeched Mother Earth and Father Sky to heal, grow, empower, feed, and strengthen. Though overlooked by an untrained eye, something as intricate as the way bead work was sewn on a moccasin would identify a specific tribe. The culture and art of Native Americans will always be a source of fascination, whether from an artistic perspective, a historical perspective, or a spiritual perspective.
The Evans Library is proud to present "Native American Culture and Art." Patrons can view a compendium of rich resources that include colorful books, journals, government resources, and more. Included are various Native American items, such as a prayer pipe, a woven rug, beaded work, and an intricately detailed bust of the famous shaman, Running-With-Books. Associate Provost and Dean of University College, Dr. Clifford Bragdon is a direct descendent of the famous Indian artist, W. Langdon Kihn and has lent several original pieces from his W. L. Kihn collection for the display. Along with the display, this site provides a sampling of the cultures and arts related to Native Americans.
NATIVE AMERICAN REGALIA
"Native American regalia is special dress, ornamentation, jewelry and other paraphernalia which is worn for particular occasions such as festivals and dances, ceremonies and rituals. The style of dress, symbols used in designs, colors in beadwork and other ornaments can help identify the wearer’s tribe or family. Specific aspects of regalia can also indicate the wearer’s political or marital status. New England Native Americans have a unique style of regalia different from other areas. One piece center-seam moccasins, porcupine quill, moosehair and floral beadwork appliqué, wampum belts, bracelets and headbands, brass and copper ornaments and certain kinds of featherwork are distinctive of New England. Traditionally in deer, elk, moose and other skins or hand-woven materials, Northeastern Native American Regalia now incorporates trade cloth, glass beads and other items of European origin.
Traditionally, regalia is set aside and worn only for special gatherings. Certain outfits or elements of clothing were undoubtedly worn only for particular ceremonies. Some regalia is sacred or has been ritually purified or blessed ("smudged" or wiped with the smoke of sacred herbs). Always seek permission before handling someone else’s special dress to avoid spiritual contamination of their regalia. Today, wearing regalia is a way to maintain Native American Heritage, to take pride in and pass on old traditions and help create new ones. Many traditional elements of pre-European contact regalia have been preserved since ancient times, but new styles of dance regalia evolved with the development of the Pow Wow festival."
Learn more about Native American regalia.
A supplemental brochure listing library resources for the Native American Culture and Arts display is available.
NATIVE AMERICAN SPIRITUALITY
|"The phenomena referred to by the term Native American religions pose an interesting and complex problem of description and interpretation, one that has consistently captured the imagination of European immigrant peoples...The identification of places of particular spiritual power points to yet another important aspect of Indian religious traditions: these places are experienced as powerful because they are experienced as alive. Not only are they sentient; they are intelligent manifestations of what Native Americans call the Sacred Mystery or the Sacred Power. The Sacred Mystery, sometimes simplistically and badly translated as "the Great Spirit," is typically experienced first of all as a great unknown. Yet this unknown becomes known as it manifests itself to humans spatially: as the Mystery Above and Mystery Below; as the Mystery (or Powers) of the Four Directions; as the Sacred Mystery in its self-manifestation in a particular place, in a particular occurrence, in an astronomical constellation, or in an artifact such as a feather. All of the created world is, in turn, seen as alive, sentient, and filled with spiritual power, including each human being. The sense of the interrelationship of all of creation, of all two-legged, four-legged, wingeds, and other living, moving things (from fish and rivers to rocks, trees and mountains) may be the most important contribution Indian peoples have made to the science and spirituality of the modern world."||
Lakota four directions sunwheel; porcupine quill on buffalo hide Lula Red Cloud
A shaman was considered the holy person of a tribe, equipped with magical and/or spiritual powers to heal the sick. Shamans were revered for their wisdom and powers. (Study the female shaman photo above.) According to the famous Native American photographer, Edward S. Curtis: "Many Hupa shamans were women, and among their neighbors, the Yurok and the Karok, as well as among the more distant Wiyot on the coast, male shamans were rare. Hupa shamans acquired the power to cure disease by dreaming and dancing. They were credited with the ability to inflict mysterious sickness by sorcery, and only they could relieve the victim of such magic."
THE SUN DANCE
"A FEW years ago it was the good fortune of the writer to witness, at the Spotted Tail Indian Agency, on Beaver Creek, Nebraska, the ceremony of the great sun-dance of the Sioux. Perhaps eight thousand Brule Sioux were quartered at the agency at that time, and about forty miles to the west, near the head of the White River, there was another reservation of Sioux, numbering probably a thousand or fifteen hundred less Ordinarily each tribe or reservation has its own celebration of the sun-dance; but owing to the nearness of these two agencies it was this year thought best to join forces and celebrate the savage rites with unwonted splendor and barbarity. Nearly half way between the reservations the two forks of the Chadron (or Shadron) creek form a wide plain, which was chosen as the site of the great sun-dance.
In general it is almost impossible for a white man to gain permission to view this ceremony in all its details; but I had in Spotted Tail, the chief, and in Standing Elk, the head warrior, two very warm friends, and their promise that I should behold the rites in part slowly widened and allowed me to obtain full view of the entire proceedings.
It was in June that the celebration was to be held, and for many days before the first ceremonies took place the children of the prairies began to assemble, not only from the two agencies most interested, but from many distant bands of Sioux to which rumors of the importance of this meeting had gone. Everywhere upon the plains were picturesque little caravans moving towards the level stretch between the branches of the Chadron -- ponies dragging the lodge-poles of the tepees, with roughly constructed willow baskets hanging from the poles and filled with a confusion of pots and puppies, babies and drums, scalps and kindling-wood and rolls of jerked buffalo meat, with old hags urging on the ponies, and gay young warriors riding. Fully twenty thousand Sioux were present, the half-breeds and the "squaw-men" of the two agencies said, when the opening day arrived. Probably fifteen thousand would be more correct. It was easier to believe the statement of the Indians that it was the grandest sun-dance within the memory of the oldest warriors; and as I became fully convinced of this assertion, I left no stone unturned that would keep me fast in the good graces of my friends, Spotted Tail and Standing Elk."
NATIVE AMERICAN SHELTER
Geographical location determined what materials were used to construct a home for a Native American family. Some homes were made of animal skins, others of branches, and still others were built with mud and stone. Below are a few examples.
Left: Little Big Mouth, a medicine man, seated in front of his lodge near Fort Sill, Oklahoma, with medicine bag visible from behind the tent. Photographed by William S. Soule, 1869-70; Middle: Apache rancheria with two men holding rifles. Photographed by Camillus S. Fly; Right: The Arrow Maker and his daughter, Kaivavit Paiutes, in front of their home, northern Arizona. Photographed by Clement Powell, October 4, 1872. Source
NATIVE AMERICAN LANGUAGE
Constitution and Laws of the Cherokee Nation. [in Cherokee] Parsons, Kansas: Foley r'y Printing Co., 1892-3.
"Sequoyah (George Guess, c.1770-1843) spent over a decade developing a syllabary for writing the Cherokee language. His system was remarkably simple, and became popular throughout the tribe (see the Cherokee Constitution). Paradoxically, Sequoyah's motivation in appropriating the European-introduced technology of writing lay in his desire to combat Cherokee acculturation to Euro-American norms. The syllabary promoted Cherokee pride by making literacy available in the Cherokees' own language. Advocates of the syllabary also noted that, by writing in Cherokee, their written communication would not be available to whites."
Following is just a sampling of some other Native American Languages:
NATIVE AMERICAN ART
What constitutes Native American art? It can be an original woven blanket created by a Navaho woman from one hundred years ago. For her, the blanket was nothing more than an item to warm or to cover a loved one or possessions. She undoubtedly wove in symbolic designs of a spiritual nature, as was the norm for her culture. To her and her family, the blanket was not created to be a piece of art. It was to serve a utilitarian purpose. The same can be said of the tribes that made baskets or sewed bead work on clothing and footwear. The items were functional and decorated with very powerful spiritual symbols used to ward off danger, strengthen the wearer, honor gods, etc.
Today, people look at these remarkably beautiful items and call them 'art'. In addition to this form of art, Native American artists from years ago created drawings, simple yet detailed accounts of daily life. And still yet: modern-day Native Americans have added to the genre by creating beautiful paintings, sculpture, and jewelry. Native American art continues to provide a visual and historical 'document' of a people to be revered and not forgotten.
Left: Hopi Indian Deer Kachina Doll, Middle: drawing by Cheyenne artist, Tichkemastse (aka Squint Eyes) [ink and watercolor on paper, 1878-1881], Right: Beaded Buckskin Quiver and Arrows set.
Left: Medicine Man Indian Hair Pipe Bone Breast Plate, Middle: Anonymous Cheyenne drawing of Osages chasing Cheyennes, each with a shield, ca. 1880s, Right: 1940's Antique Papago Indian Squash Blossom Tray Basket.
|National Museum of the American Indian||http://www.nmai.si.edu|
|National Museum of Natural History||http://www.nmnh.si.edu/naa/scout|
|Native Languages of the Americas||http://www.native-languages.org|
|Lakota Winter Counts Online Exhibit||http://wintercounts.si.edu/index.html|
|Kiowa Drawings in the National Anthropological Archives||http://www.nmnh.si.edu/naa/kiowa/kiowa.htm|
|Imaging and Imangining the Ghost Dance||http://php.indiana.edu/~tkavanag/visual5.html|
|Omaha Indian Music||http://memory.loc.org/ammen/omhhtml/omhhome.html|
|Original Tribal Names of Native North American People||http://www.native-languages.org/original.htm|
|The Ghost Dance Among the Lakota||http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/one/|
|Camping with the Sioux - Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher||http://www.nmnh.si.edu/naa/fletcher/fletcher.htm|
|The Sun Dance||http://www.crystalinks.com/sundance.html|
PHOTO CREDITS: Unless otherwise indicated, all photos are from Library of Congress Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian site.
This site is presented by the Florida Institute of Technology Evans Library Instructional Programs Team.
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